Iceland has cleared its first procedural hurdle to joining the European Union.At their meeting in Brussels, the EU Foreign Ministers called for an assessment of the island’s readiness to join. Other countries that have already applied for membership – such as those in the Balkans – won’t be pushed back. But Iceland will have a practical head start. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said:“There is no fast track for Iceland but there is obviously a rather shorter track for Iceland because they are already part of the single market and the Schengen area.” “But we will take one step at a time,” he continued. Iceland’s leaders hope joining the EU will solve the country’s economic crisis. Its biggest banks failed last year, causing an 80 percent slump in the krona against the euro. It will not be an easy road to membership. Icelanders are likely to fight to keep fishing quotas and whale-hunting rights, contrary to EU rules. Officials believe the process – at its fastest – could take three years or more.
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